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'Johnny Be Good' (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 28, 1988

"I doubt if I could love anyone who did not wish to see 'Look Back in Anger,' " wrote the late British theater critic Kenneth Tynan of the John Osborne play. And he made quite a splash in writing it. Well, I can go him one better: I doubt if I could stand to be in the same state as anyone who liked the new Anthony Michael Hall film "Johnny Be Good."

If Chuck Berry were dead, he'd be spinning in his grave. It had to happen, I guess, what with Beatles songs being used for sneaker ads and all. But still one can hope.

Or can one?

"Johnny Be Good," which is the first film by Bud Smith, is about a high school football star named Johnny Walker (Hall) who, during the intense period of recruiting by college football programs and their lucrative offers of cars, cash and fabulous babes, loses his sense of values only to regain them at the last moment.

Nothing wrong with this, right? Nice idea for a movie. Positive. Affirmative. Wrong. And what I want to know is how anyone associated with this thing can even think about words like "values" without choking.

Who decided that Anthony Michael Hall, who in "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Weird Science," established himself as the movies' reigning geekmeister, was a sex machine?

Hall has always had a inexplicably odd energy onscreen. And as he's gotten older, it has only gotten odder. If there's a weird way to bend a line, he'll find it. But here he's playing the fabled captain of the football team, a man for whom all womandom longs, and there's not a trace of irony anywhere. Or a trace of humor. Does Hollywood think that the public will accept anything?

What's next? Pee-wee Herman as James Bond?

Of course, many things happen in Hollywood that can't be explained by normal, right-thinking people. But this movie is so crass, so vulgar, so relentlessly brain-dead that, watching it, you think your imagination is beginning to play tricks on you. Robert Downey Jr. couldn't have threatened to blow his brains out with a rubber dart gun, could he? It had to have been a hallucination. It fact, maybe I just imagined the whole thing.

"Johnny Be Good" contains explicitly profane language, drug references and nudity.

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